Patiala girl is new Miss India

 Navneet Kaur Dhillon
Navneet Kaur Dhillon

All that glittered at Pond’s Femina Miss India (PFMI) 2013 on Sunday March 24 was gold indeed since it was the golden jubilee (50th) year of the pageant.

Finally, Navneet Kaur Dhillon (20), the daughter of an army officer from Patiala, was crowned PFMI World 2013. After ArmyPublic School, Ambala, she attended Patiala’s PunjabiUniversity. The first runners-up was Sobhita Dhulipala of Visakhapatnam. The 20-year-old ex-student of VishakhaValleySchool currently studies at HR College, Mumbai. The city is also the present home of Zoya Afroz (18), who was the second runners-up. Originally from Lucknow, the Land of Nawabs, Zoya, an actor, studied at R N Shah High School and then MithibaiCollege.

Faced with a rather morbid question of what her one regret would be if she were to die the following day, Navneet gathered her wits quickly and said, “The only thing I would regret would be not having done as much for society as I would like to. Issues of women’s empowerment and child labor and other social evils are a big concern.”

Amid cheers, Miss India 2000 Priyanka Chopra told the three to appreciate the crown. “It stays with you forever. It changes you from who you could have been to who you are going to be,” she said.

This year’s pageant, held at Yashraj Studios, Andheri, marked a double milestone, given that 2013 celebrates the centenary of Indian cinema as well as the 50th year of the Miss India contest. In this span of time, India has won 34 international titles – second only to Venezuela. Host Manish Paul opened the evening with a nostalgic audiovisual tracing the golden history of the contest. From Nutan, Meher Castelino Mistry, Persis Khambatta and Zeenat Aman, down to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sushmita Sen and Priyanka Chopra, the winners have done the country proud.

The event started with host Manish Paul quoting an Urdu verse celebrating womanhood. As the event’s judges, Karan Johar, Asin, Shiamak Davar, Yuvraj Singh, Ritu Kumar, Chitrangada Singh and John Abraham, entered, their fans rose and cheered.

And then, kitted out in black, ivory and flame, the contestants, aged 18-25, walked down the ramp and introduced themselves. They had come from all over the country – Assam’s Dibrugarh to Orissa’s Bhubaneswar, Patna to Pune, and the metro cities. Among them were models, actors and even an aeronautical engineer and a yoga trainer.

Comedy trio Riteish Deshmukh, Vivek Oberoi and Aftab Shivdasani pretended to gatecrash the event to ease the nerves of the women onstage. They performed a ribald act before moving on to a dance medley.

Miss India has long been known as a passport to cinema and there were no pretensions this time. All 23 finalists wore ethnic Bharatanatyam costumes or ghagra-cholis and danced to a robust ‘Radha teri chunri’ as if they were ready for the next logical step.

A special award called woman of substance was given to Urmi Basu for her work in the field of prostitution and trafficking. It was presented by Miss India 2012 Vanya Mishra.





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